In the Transfiguration of Jesus that we hear about this Second Sunday of Lent (Luke 9:28-36), God gives us a glimpse of His glory in Heaven. We respond, as we do at every Mass, with prayers of thanksgiving, and with prayers for people who have died – because they may benefit from our prayers if they are in Purgatory, which is not a place but a state of being, a state of purification, that occurs in Heaven. When we die, we either go to Heaven or Hell – and God will judge us according to our deeds, whether good or evil (2 Cor. 5:10; Matthew 25). To be in Purgatory means that we are in Heaven, for Jesus has saved us from our sins. To be before the Face of God in the full glory of Heaven (the Beatific Vision), we may need a purging of the effects of the sins we committed, sins that Jesus Christ in His infinite mercy has forgiven. Purgatory is Our Lord’s merciful justice. Jesus revealed His justice and mercy in His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Purgatory is like the time I broke a window at my parents’ home – I asked them to forgive me and they did, but the window remained broken. Someone had to repair it. Likewise, we seek God’s forgiveness for our sins and He forgives us, yet the effects of our sins remain (harm we caused to others by our sins). So by God’s grace we strive to repair the damage we caused by our sins. Such reparation (Masses, prayers, fasting, almsgiving, penances) can also be done by us on behalf of the dead who may need a final purification.
Purgatory, then, is a state of purification in Heaven, where the saving merits of Jesus Christ’s death and Resurrection are applied to the soul of the deceased Christian who has died with non-deadly (1 John 5:16-17), post-baptismal sins on his soul (Jesus purifies us of the effects of the sins He has forgiven). This final purification prepares the Christian’s soul for total union with God in the full glory of Heaven (the word “Purgatory” does not appear in the Bible, but we still use the term just as we use the non-Biblical word “Trinity” to describe God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Let us pray for the faithful departed – if they’re already in the fullness of Heaven, then our prayers and penance may deepen their love for God, or God will apply them to others who do need them. The Bible and Catechism can help us to understand Jesus Christ’s Teachings on Purgatory:
Isaiah 6:5-7; 2 Macc. 12:38-46; Sirach 7:33; Psalm 99:8; Rev. 6:9-10, 8:3-4, 21:27; Matthew 5:8, 5:48, 12:32, 17:1-8, 25:31-46; Mark 9:49; Luke 16:19-31; John 5:16-17; 1 Cor. 3:10-20, 15:20-34; 2 Cor. 4:7-18, 5:1-10; 2 Tim. 1:15-18; Hebrews 9:23-28, 12:14. Also, Catechism of the Catholic Church #1030-1032.
With peace and prayers in Christ,